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This item is taken from PN Review 126, Volume 25 Number 4, March - April 1999.

News & Notes
The American poet and novelist JANET LEWIS died in December, aged 99, writes Clive Wilmer. She died in the house in Los Altos, California, which she and her husband, the poet and critic Yvor Winters, had bought in 1928. She was, as Dick Davis noted in the Independent, 'the last survivor of the extraordinary generation of American literary talent which began to publish in the 1920s. She and Ernest Hemingway began their literary careers at virtually the same moment, with contributions to the same high school literary magazine.'

Lewis began and ended her long career with poetry. Her first book, The Indians in the Woods, written in the avant-garde manner of its day, appeared in 1922; her last book, The Dear Past, which gathered the poems of her eighties and nineties, as recently as 1994. In between she wrote other poems, mostly collected in Poems Old and New (1981), libretti for six operas, children's stories, a handful of translations, five novels and a collection of short stories. Her finest achievement was inescapably her four historical novels. The first of these, The Invasion (1932) is a family saga set in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It concerns the relations, both troubled and peaceful, between American, French, British and Ojibway people on an island near the confluence of Lakes Michigan and Superior. The preoccupation with Native American people is characteristic. The story is based on historical fact, as is the case with her three novels on problems of justice and authority: The Wife of Martin Guerre (1941) - her bestknown book and a miniature masterpiece - The Trial of Sören Qvist (1947) and The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron (1959).

Lewis's writings in verse and prose are notable for their subtle and humane morality, their exactness of observation, their meditative tranquillity and the extreme but unostentatious beauty of their style. The critic Evan S. Connell spoke no less than truth when he said he could think of no other writer 'whose stature so far exceeds her public recognition'.

The Indian poet and song-lyric writer Ramchandra Baryanji Dwivedi, known as KAVI PRADEEP died in Bombay in December at the age of 83. He is best-known in India for his film-work - in 1939 he moved to Bombay (Bollywood) to try his luck with celluloid, and he succeeded beyond his expectations in 1940 with Bandhan. Patriotic (anti-Japanese, also anti-British in rhetoric), with a strong sense of the countryside and country life, his lyrics are memorable and the best of them promptly entered the popular culture. Changes in fashion meant that his cinema work fell into neglect, with one or two exceptions, as the 1960s advanced. He left over 1700 songs.

In Professor Martin A. Kayman of the Faculdade de Letras, Universidade de Coimbra, 3049 Coimbra Codex, Portugal, THE EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF ENGLISH has an excellent editor for The European English Messenger, its newsletter which has become a wonderfully informative and readable journal, neither dryly specialised nor marginal to the concerns of any reader of literature, whether academic or not. Volume VII, issue 2 (Autumn 1998) reached PN Review's offices rather late, but the content had not dated in transit. The President of ESSE in his column notes that, 'The instruction manual for the European Union's SOCRATES programme actually states quite explicitly that no portion of the funds for teaching a student a foreign language may be diverted to provide the student with a dictionary...' A critical welcome is accorded to the no-longer-so-new technologies; theory has a place, but its place is earned rather than given. There are three excellent and suggestively divergent articles on the writing of literary history, the most cogent being by Andrew Sanders. And Professor Kayman is commissioning 'Revaluations', in this issue a wholly surprising and curious revaluation of Leavis by Terry Eagleton. He recalls the culturalpolitical strategy and the legacy of Scrutiny, and then adds, 'All this, of course, was in the name of that now most fashionably demonised of doctrines, "liberal humanism". In a political climate where even a mild dose of social democracy has become an increasingly utopian option, liberal humanism is by no means a gift horse to be looked in the mouth, as the victims of racism or censorship may attest. But in any case, the cultural left's summary judgment on this chequered phenomenon has been absurdly self-righteous and unhistorical.'

In December PETER COLE was awarded the Modern Language Association's prestigious Scaglione Prize for his translation of the Selected Poem of Shmuel HaNagid, the eleventh-century Hebrew poet of Moslem Spain, published by Princeton University Press. HaNagid was 'the prime minister of the Moslem state of Granada, battlefield commander of the non-Jewish Granadan army, and one of the leading religious figures in a medieval Jewish world that stretched from Andalusia to Baghdad'.

In July of the year 2000, three hundred years after his death, John Dryden will be the subject of a susbtantial conference at the University of Bristol, a conference which draws together the combined forces of the Department of English, Department of Classics, and the Centre for the Classical Tradition. The chief theme of the conference is Dryden and Classical Antiquity, and the questions posed by Dryden's work as a poet and translator and our reception of it in a new millennium are practical and pressing. Further information about this particularly promising conference is available from Dr David Hopkins, Reader in English Poetry, Department of English, University of Bristol, 3/5 Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1TB.

Oxford Brookes University are holding a Research Colloquium from 13-15 April for academics, poets and all those interested in poetry, entitled Politics and the Vernacular in Modern and Contemporary Poetry. 'The aims of the colloquium are threefold: to advance critical and theoretical responses to modern and contemporary poetry; to promote discussion - and establish networks - amongst academics working in this area, and to investigate the possibility of future collaborative research projects in the field of modern poetics.' Contributors include Robert Crawford, Sarah Maguire, Tom Paulin and Carol Rumens. Please contact Claire Killick at the School of Humanities (Tel: 01865 483570) for more details and tickets.

The Cambridge Conference of Contemporary Poetry is running this year from 23-25 April, featuring poetry readings and musical entertainment. The schedule is ambitious and radical as ever. All events are open to the public and registration is not required. For up to date information on tickets and poets attending, please contact Peter Riley (Tel/Fax: 01223 576422).

On 25 February the Poetry Society and - the press release declares - 'major businesses in the city' launch POET IN THE CITY, a scheme whose objective is 'to raise the interest rate' (poets and advertisement copy-writers have a lot in common) 'in poetry and develop links between the business world and local schools'. The launch party is at the offices of the law firm Clifford Chance and the first Interest Rate Raiser is John Mole, 'the City of London's first official poet'. Mole and a team of writers including Eva Salzman, Jane Duran, Kit Wright and Adisa will be dropping in on primary schools and other vulnerable points. George Staple QC of Clifford Chance, formerly Director of the Serious Fraud Office, will host the launch.

This item is taken from PN Review 126, Volume 25 Number 4, March - April 1999.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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